By MIKE CHAIKEN
Mario Diaz had traveled across the hemisphere to be there.
And now, Diaz, a textile businessman from Argentina, was living his dream.
He was on-stage at the Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino, playing his guitar while his musical idol, Roger Daltrey, the lead singer for rock legends The Who, sang along a few feet away from him.
Diaz found his personal glory on Sunday, Oct. 19, which was the last night of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp, which has established a residency at the Mashantucket casino this year. (Future camps are planned for Jan. 15, and March 5.
The “camp” is intended for “weekend warrior” musicians, who want to meet, be tutored by, and play with their musical idols. So in addition to Daltrey’s visit to the camp on Sunday, the “campers” that weekend got to hang out with guitarist Rick Derringer, former Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke, former Boston guitarist Barry Goudreau, girl group veteran Darlene Love, and a slew of other musicians who have played with the rock and roll greats.
The campers came from all walks of life, all ages, and both sexes.
Diaz, however, probably traveled the farthest of any of the participants to indulge in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp.
For Diaz, the lead singer of the Who was what drew him from South America.
“This is the last chance in my life. Roger is 70 years old. How many times will I have the opportunity,” said Diaz.
Diaz, who plays in a band in Argentina, has been a fan of Daltrey and The Who for some time, having discovered the album, “Who’s Next” when he was already 40. Since then, he said, “I’ve been to a lot of Who concerts, 14 concerts…”
However, he said, the camp was “something different.”
Daltrey arrived mid-afternoon on Sunday, where he jammed with the campers on either classic Who songs such as “My Generation,” or a well placed covers such as The Beatles “Let It Be.”
Diaz said, “Being on stage with Roger and seeing him looking at me, I thought for a moment, my plane had crashed and I had died. I couldn’t believe it.”
After he finished rehearsing with the campers, Daltrey said, “It’s not easy (playing with them) because they don’t do (the music) the way we do it.”
Also, Daltrey said, “It’s a tricky thing (the camp) to put on because obviously you get musicians of varying ability. You want to mix them all in. But the main thing is it’s socializing you’re talking to people who love music, love talking about music.”
“But, it’s so much fun,” said Daltrey. “It kind of reminds me why I became a rock singer in the first place.”
Andrew Tremarche of Framingham, Mass. had won a radio station singing contest, “Who Can Sing The Who” to attend the camp. “This is ultimately the most awesome thing I’ve ever done.” He is a long-time fan of The Who and Daltrey. And he also is a long-time fan of the bands of two of the camp’s instructors, drummer Simon Kirke of Bad Company and guitarist Barry Gourdreau, formerly of Boston.
“They’re such friendly people,” said Tremarche of the rock and roll instructors. Tremarche, who owns his own custom cabinet and woodworking shop, said, “It’s nice to work with the professionals.”
Brad Mosher, a retired executive with General Electric, had not stepped behind a drum kit in 40 years. He said he mostly has been keeping up with his skills using practice pads set up in his basement. But at the Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp, he had a chance to sit behind a full kit again. And he was earning kudos from his fellow campers and his instructors, including drummer Simon Kirke. With the camp and praise under his belt, Mosher is now thinking about getting a full drum kit once again.
Carl Bonner of Norfolk, Va. came to the camp to indulge in his new hobby. He only recently picked up the guitar—learning to play it to jam with his sons— and he said this was a good chance to play with some other musicians and get a measure of his skills.
“I learned a lot,” said Bonner, who is a chemistry professor by day. “It’s like college for guitar.”
The next edition of Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp at Foxwoods is Jan. 15 to 18, 2015 with Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Steve Morse of Deep Purple, Lou Gramm of Foreigner, Bumblefoot of Guns and Roses. For more information, go to Foxwoods.com or RockCamp.com
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN